Birding Africa
    Birding tours from Cape Town to Cameroon and Madagascar, with the only African Birding Specialist












Trip Report

Birding Cameroon
(A modular birding tour in West Africa's richest birding country)

14 March - 10 April 2003

- Trip Report -

By Michael Mills and Callan Cohen and

Tour Leaders and Participants

Tour Itinerary:

- Sahelian Specials: The Arid North
- In Pursuit of Highland Endemics
- Into the Lowlands for Picathartes

Checklist of Bird Species Recorded:
(Download MS Word Document)

Next scheduled departure: March 2004

Tour Leaders and Participants:

1. Callan Cohen (Birding Africa leader - Southern Highlands and Korup)
2. Michael Mills (Birding Africa leader - all three segments)
3. Ron Hoff and Dollyann Meyers (participants - all three segments)
4. Pearl Jordan (participant - Southern Highlands and Korup)
5. Frank Bills (participant - Korup)


Cameroon is an essential destination for any birder serious about sampling Africa's best birds. Its mind-boggling diversity of habitats stretches from lowland equatorial forests, through highland forests and grasslands and Guinea woodlands, to the Saharan edge. Most notable of these habitats is its highland forests, which form one of Africa's most significant Endemic Bird Areas, harbouring a staggering 25 endemics, including the critically endangered Mount Kupe Bush-shrike (described in 1952 and less than 30 individuals recorded since then) and mythical Bannerman's Turaco.
Other key African species that are best searched for in Cameroon include Crossley's Ground Thrush, Grey-headed Broadbill, Quail Plover, Egyptian Plover, Cricket Warbler and, most significant of all, the bizarre Red-headed Picathartes.
With this knowledge in mind we set three very clear goals for our tour. These were (1) to find all the Cameroon Mountains endemics (excluding Mount Cameroon Francolin, which requires three days of single-minded dedication), (2) to track down one of Africa's most peculiar birds, Red-headed Picathartes, in Korup National Park and (3) to sample a good cross-section of Cameroon's tremendous bird diversity, particularly focusing on the high number of other range-restricted and taxonomically unusual species.

During our 2003 trip we successfully achieved all three these goals. Every member of the group obtained extensive views of every Cameroon Mountains Endemic, including the highly desired Mount Kupe Bush-shrike.
Who could forget our marvelous views of a pair of Bannerman's Turaco perched out in the open, watching tight-knit groups of White-throated Mountain Babbler investigating every conceivable nook and cranny in the mossy canopy, seeing a small family group of Mount Cameroon Speirops in their spectacular mountain setting, watching a male Green-breasted Bush-shrike singing from his tree-top perch with a large gecko dangling from his lethal beak, or being treated to eye level views of a pair of dainty Little Oliveback feeding on hanging vines.
In total we recorded more than 570 species, including other sought after birds such as African Swallow-tailed Kite, White-throated and Schlegel's Francolin, Quail Plover, Buff- spotted and Red-chested Flufftail, Arabian Bustard, Grey Pratincole, Egyptian Plover, African Skimmer,Adamawa Turtle Dove, Violet Turaco, Standard-winged and Golden Nightjar (a first for Cameroon), Blue-bellied Roller, White-crested Hornbill, Willcock's Honeyguide, African Piculet, Grey-headed and Rufous-sided Broadbill, Crossley's Ground Thrush, Cricket Warbler, Spotted Thrush Babbler, White-collared Starling, White-cheeked Oliveback, Brown and Dybowski's Twinspot and Oriole Finch. Top cap it all, and the highlight for most, was watching a pair of extraordinary Red-headed Picathartes bounding about over boulders and fluffing their feathers to dry after a rainstorm.

Tour Itinerary:

14 March 2003: Douala - The Wouri River
Since Ron Hoff and Dollyann Meyers had arrived early for the trip, we decided to visit the nearby Wouri River in the afternoon. African Finfoot was seen earlier in the day, but was absent during our afternoon visit. However, we were not disappointed - Mottled Spinetail showed well, skimming low over the water, Western Reef Egret joined Great, Intermediate and Little Egret roosting in the mangroves, flocks of Grey Parrot shrieked overhead as they headed for they roosts, and the unusual Brown Sunbird daintily flitted through the mangroves. The greatest surprise was in the form of Swamp Boubou, a scarce species in this part of Africa.
15 March 2003: The Sanaga River and Limbe Botanical Gardens

Yet another bonus day allowed us to fit in some birding a little further from Douala. An early start saw us making our way to the Sanaga River. We stopped en route for views of perched Piping and White-thighed Horbill and Palm-nut Vulture. Scanning the sand bars along the wide, meandering river, we were soon located a number of delightful Grey Pratincole, alongside White-fronted Plover and White-headed Lapwing. Further on was a sizeable roost of African Skimmer and a large flock of Preuss' Cliff Swallow.
Before returning to Douala for lunch we made a few more roadside stops for a pair of Sabine's Spinetail, the only Grey- throated Barbet of the trip, a particularly confiding Green Hylia and our first Orange-cheeked Waxbill.

Soon back in Douala we enjoyed lunch whilst watching Reichenbach's and Carmelite Sunbird in the hotel gardens, before continuing on to Limbe. The drive turned up our first of many Red-necked Buzzards. Strolling around the gardens we quickly notched up Cassin's Flycatcher hunting along the stream and Western Bluebill foraging on the lawn. Just before departing for Douala a pair of Chestnut-winged Starlings put in an appearance, rounding off a great day.
Sahelian Specials: The Arid North
16 March 2003: Douala to Ngaoundaba Ranch

The trip kicked off officially today with an afternoon flight to Ngaoundere. From here we completed the one-hour journey to Ngaoundaba Ranch in our comfortable, air-conditioned minibus. Our post-dusk arrival was rewarded with a displaying male Standard-winged Nightjar. What a welcome!
17-18 March 2003: Ngaoundaba Ranch

Ngaoundaba Ranch harbours a rich mosaic of habitats, each with its own associated suite of bird species. We spent two full days here, focussing our attention on a number of key species for which Ngaoundaba Ranch is famous. Most of these are associated with the gallery forests that crisscross the area, but some important Guinea woodland species are also present. The first morning was off to a cracking start with three Willcock's Honeyguide hawking insects at eye level along the forest edge, allowing for superb scope views. Shortly afterwards we taped out Grey-winged and White-crowned Robin Chat, and a pair of gaudy White-crested Turaco passed by. The surrounding woodlands were alive with birds. Most conspicuous were typically vociferous Western Grey Plantain-Eater and Senegal Parrot, and roving bands of Yellow-billed Shrike.
Starling flocks, a key feature of the avifauna here, included not only Purple, Bronze-tailed and Splendid Glossy Startling, but most importantly the highly localised and particularly exquisite White-collared Starling. Equally attractive, although less conspicuous was Splendid Sunbird, which responded to Pearl-spotted Owlet call-up together with the diminutive Senegal Eremomela.
After a leisurely brunch we birded around the picturesque crater lake. First, a male Marsh Tchagra flushed from the tall grass ahead of us, as the elusive Spotted Thrush Babbler sang in the distance. After some focused searching we managed to pinpoint the Babbler, enabling us to study this unusual bird at close range. Next to come was a small party of Brown Twinspot, a bird undeserving of such a drab name, to be followed by the endemic Bamenda Apalis and bizarre Oriole Warbler. Ross's Turaco, Green-backed Woodpecker and Square-tailed Drongo concluded a very productive walk, before we settled in for our afternoon siesta.
In the late afternoon we returned to the woodlands, flushing a covey of Double-spurred Francolin from the roadside as we left the ranch. Nearby a large mixed-species flock contained Black Woodhoopoe, Brown-backed Woodpecker, White-shouldered Black Tit and Grey-headed Bush-shrike, while a variety of finches moved restlessly through the understory. Careful scanning rewarded us not only with Black-bellied Firefinch, but also our first Dybowski's Twinspot, another of Africa's spectacular finches. On our drive back for dinner we spotted a distant pair of Blue-bellied Roller, which unfortunately disappeared before we could fully appreciate their beauty.
Early the next morning we headed straight for the roller spot, in hope of improving our views. Distant calls of the rollers prompted us to move down the valley, but not for long. To our great surprise the exceptionally rare Schlegel's Francolin started to crow nearby. Although Ngaoundaba Ranch is known as a locality for this little-known species, there have been few reports in recent years. We moved in silently, pinpointing the exact locality of the calling bird. After some patient waiting and tape playing a pair emerged into the open! Fully engrossed in watching these splendid birds, at least 30 minutes passed before we managed to tear ourselves away for some birding in the stunted woodland near the ranch entrance. Here we located a singing Red-winged Warbler, and the burnt ground turned up our first Heuglin's Wheatear. Although our attempts at finding Blackcap Babbler along the gallery forest were unsuccessful, a pair of White-cheeked Oliveback was a very popular replacement.

After another relaxed brunch we decided to concentrate our efforts on another patch of gallery forest. Red-shouldered Cuckooshrike and Spotted Creeper spurred us on as we passed through the woodlands. At the stream, seedeaters were visiting in great numbers, including our main target, a pair of colourful Yellow-winged Pytilia. Also seen here was a small party of Stone Partridge, a surprising sighting this far south. We ended the day back at the roller spot, which this time turned up the desired views, and a pair of White-breasted Cuckooshrike. After dinner we headed out for a spotlighting session. It was full moon and birds were very vocal. An African Scops Owl came in close to inspect our playback of its call, while numerous male Standard-winged Nightjar dazzled us with their captivating displays. Frustratingly many birds were heard only, including Bronze-winged Courser, Brown-chested Lapwing and Plain Nightjar.

19 March 2003: Ngaoundaba Ranch to Benoue National Park

Before finally lea
ving Ngaoundaba Ranch, we had a last attempt at finding Blackcap Babbler. Success at last!

This was mainly a travel day, although we made a number of roadside stops, the first of which was for a pair of Great Spotted Eagle, presumably moving through on passage. Next was a mixed Horus Swift / Red-throated Bee-eater colony and later our only Purple Swamphen of the trip. By the time we reached Benoue National Park the temperature was soaring into the low 40s. A few stops along the entrance road produced our first Fine-spotted Woodpecker, Senegal Batis, Pygmy Sunbird and Cabanis's Bunting, but the flies were becoming a nuisance so we headed for our air-conditioned huts. After a rest, and once it had cooled down, we went for a short walk near the Campement, adding Viellot's and Bearded Barbet to our ever-growing list, and completing the day with a stunning pair of Violet Turacos.

20-21 March 2003: Benoue National Park

Like Ngaoundaba, Benoue is rich in habitat diversity, with the key species concentrating along the riparian zone of the sizeable Benoue River. This is where we kicked off our first morning, finding Red-winged Grey Warbler on the outskirts of camp. The rank riverside vegetation played host to noisy Black-headed Gonolek, skulking African Moustached Warbler and the shy Black-billed Wood Dove. The water itself attracted Heuglin's Masked Weaver to drink, with some males nearly in full breeding plumage. In the nearby woodland we found a flock of eloquent Swallow-tailed Bee-eater, a scarce species in Cameroon, as well as a large mixed-species flock, containing our first of many Yellow-bellied Hyliota. Here too we were treated to our first views of White-throated Francolin, a species we recorded each day during our stay at Benoue. A male, no more than 20m away, was enticed from its dense-grass haunt into open view.

Well satisfied with our morning's work, we headed back to camp for a well-earned brunch. This was followed up with a drive to the Hippo Pools, where we had close-up views of the superb Egyptian Plover, the penultimate river-associated species on our
hit list.

Adamawa Turtle Dove was still outstanding, but not for long. A pair was calling from across the river and although it was getting rather hot by now, we knew we had to take the opportunity when it presented itself. Shoes off and into the water! We waded across the Benoue River and slowly approached the doves, which called intermittently. With much patience and scanning we managed to locate a bird perched in the dense vegetation. Fortunately it moved into the open, allowing us to study this attractive dove through the telescope. Having wrapped up the riverine birds, we spent little more time along the river, although we did find an impressive Verreaux's Eagle Owl on its riverside day roost and Blue-breasted Kingfisher hunting over an open pool.

We had now freed up plenty of time to work the surrounding woodlands thoroughly. Over the following day and a half we managed to add a great number of species to our list. Cisticolas abound in the grassy areas, with Red-faced, Winding, Croaking, Short-winged and Rufous Cisticola all being seen. Other highlights included six Four-banded Sandgrouse feeding in the road, a pair of stately Abyssinian Ground Hornbill, Ovambo Sparrowhawk nest building (possibly the first breeding record for Cameroon), a Lesser Honeyguide on its display perch and a pair of the unusual Black-faced Firefinch. A night drive produced great views of Senegal Galago and African Civet, although we had to content ourselves with flight views of White-faced Owl.
22 March 2003: Benoue National Park to Maroua

We spent the first few hours birding the main road out of Benoue. The last stop, for a pair of Brown-rumped Bunting, turned out to be particularly productive. As soon as the engine stopped we could hear Dorst's Cisticola calling nearby and decided to follow the calls. Many birds were feeding in the area, including a pair of Red-winged Pytilia, a species we had spent much time looking for over the past few days. Before finally tracking down the little-known cisticola, we also managed to flush a Little Buttonquail and spot another White-throated Francolin feeding in the shade of a tree.

Content with our latest finds, we headed northwards. Grasshopper Buzzard was a welcome addition to our list during the long drive to Maroua.
23 March 2003: Maroua to Waza via Mora

An early morning departure allowed us to reach Mora before it was hot. In the surrounding open bushlands we found a pair of White-bellied Bustard foraging along a gully, numerous bold Black-headed Lapwing, ever-busy Rufous and Black Scrub Robin foraging around the bases of bushes, and Little Green Bee-eater, which provided a splash of colour. The show, however, was stolen by the diminutive Cricket Warbler, a species which although not particularly colourful is exceptionally attractively marked, besides being notoriously enigmatic.
From Mora we continued northwards to Waza, stopping for roadside raptors such as Long-legged Buzzard (rare in Cameroon) and the eloquent African Swallow-tailed Kite. Chestnut-bellied Starling preferred the more open areas, whereas groups of White-billed Buffalo Weaver frequented their large, messy nests. Arriving at Camepement de Waza we settled in before heading out in the late afternoon to bird the Acacia thickets and receding water pools to the south. Clapperton's Francolin scratched busily in the bare, dusty earth, while Masked and Isabelline Shrike hunted from their low perches and River Prinia and Sennar Penduline Tit gleaned the fine Acacia leaves for insects. The few remaining pools drew impressive numbers of granivores, including massive, swirling flocks of Red-billed Quelea and an array of doves, such as African Morning and African Collared Dove.
24-25 March 2003: Waza National Park and surrounds We entered Waza National Park as soon as it opened, pausing briefly at the first waterhole to admire a flock of breeding plumage Garganey, and Yellow-billed, African Openbill and White Stork. However, our main quarry was out on the plains, where we headed without much delay. Soon we were rewarded with our first Arabian Bustard, feeding on the open floodplain. This was followed later by two more.
We spent the remainder of the day and the following afternoon moving from waterhole to waterhole, both inside and outside of the National Park. Storks and Vultures were conspicuous with Saddle-billed, Marabou and Woolly- necked Stork, and Egyptian, Rueppell's, White-backed and Lappet-faced Vulture all being easy to spot. Evident too, were large flocks of Black-crowned Crane, one being at least 500 strong! Pools not only attracted true water associated species such as Senegal Thick-knee and Long-toed Lapwing (the first confirmed record for Cameroon), but also a host of birds coming to drink, including European Turtle Dove and colourful seed-eaters like Cut-throat, African Quailfinch, African Silverbill, Black-rumped and Zebra Waxbill, White-rumped Seedeater and Sahel Paradise Whydah, some males in partial breeding dress. With such a rich abundance of potential prey, smaller raptors were also a regular feature around the pools, and included Red-necked and Peregrine Falcon and numerous Gabar Goshawk.

During our stay at Waza we also made one return-visit to Mora to look, this time unsuccessfully, for the strange buttonquail, Quail Plover. We also took a night drive south of Waza. At sunset a large group of Four-banded Sandgrouse (at least 500 strong) came in to drink at one of the waterholes, shortly followed by ten or more Long-tailed Nightjars drinking on the wing. Some perched nearby on the ground, allowing us to approach within one metre. Nocturnal mammals also abound, with highlights including a single Serval and at least three Sand Fox.

26 March 2003: Waza to Nyasoso, via Maroua and Douala

The last day of the northern segment produced the best birding yet. The first stop was for a pair of gaudy Yellow-crowned Gonolek. At Mora we looked again for Cricket Warbler, since we had met up with some friends who had not yet seen it. After a bit of a chase we managed to track down a bird calling from the bush-tops. Next we turned our attention to Quail Plover, a species that we had spent much time looking for over the previous days. But it was not to be - some of the group flushed a large, silver-and-golden nightjar. "Golden Nightjar" came the excited yells!
It was a male, a first for Cameroon and certainly one of Africa's most difficult birds! We spent at least half and hour studying the bird through telescopes and photographic it. Still awestruck, and with renditions of "Oh what a night...jar" being sung by some of the party, we managed to tear ourselves away and refocus on the Quail Plover. Not ten minutes later more excited yells as two birds flushed and landed nearby, one of which we managed to locate on the ground. In an hour we had seen Cricket Warbler, Golden Nightjar and Quail Plover! Overjoyed we headed south to Maroua, where we caught our afternoon flight to back to Douala. From Douala we transferred to Nyasoso, our base for the next few days.
In Pursuit of Highland Endemics
27-28 March 2003: The Bakossi Mountains The Bakossi Mountains shelter many of the most sought-after Cameroon Mountains endemics, and provides a great introduction to the birds of this region. During our two full days here we focused on getting as many of these endemics as possible, collecting other noteworthy species along the way. The first morning go off to a flyer, with a group of chattering Brown-backed Cisticola at the first stop, followed shortly by our first Green Longtail. Open areas on the forest edge were productive, and held specials such as Ursula's and Cameroon Sunbird and Cameroon Montane Greenbul.
These were joined by the likes of Tullberg's Woodpecker, Black Bee-eater, Superb Sunbird, Luehder's Bush-shrike, Rufous-crowned Eremomela, Brown-capped Weaver and Green Turaco. A female Red-faced Crimsonwing hopped on the path ahead of us, being far more confiding than usual. We'd come for the true forest endemics, however, so didn't waste too much time getting into the cool, moist forest under-storey. Almost immediately we were rewarded with an agitated female White-tailed Warbler, flicking her tail and uttering a scolding alarm call. Nearby was an active group of Cameroon Olive Greenbul, busily scouring the dense forest undergrowth for insects, a secretive Brown-chested Alethe attending an ant column, and a dainty Alexander's Akalat.
We found a large foraging flock and stuck with it as long as possible, carefully scanning though... Pink-footed Puffback, Mountain Sooty Boubou, Black-winged Oriole, White-bellied and Blue-headed Crested-flycatcher, Black-throated Apalis, Yellow Longbill, Grey Cuckooshrike, Cassin's Honeybird, Bar-tailed Trogon... the list was almost endless. Most important were five of our main targets: parties of bold Grey-headed and Western Mountain (Grey-throated) Greenbul, a pair of diminutive Black-capped Woodland Warbler feeding, a beautiful Black-necked Wattle-eye, and a boisterous party of White-throated Mountain Babbler, meticulously investigating all possible bug hide-outs. Whew!

The highlight of the first day, however, was a singing Green-breasted Bush-shrike, who carried in his colossal beak a fat, glistening gecko - a nuptial gift for any interested female. The second day produced the even-more desirable, and critically endangered Mount Kupe Bush-shrike. We'd heard it previously, but only saw it move briefly through the dense canopy of that occasion. After much waiting we heard the pair dueting from the valley below. We crept closer, bated breath, following the snaking trail down the slippery slope. A brief burst of playback had the desired effect as the pair into clear view! We watched them for almost half an hour, keenly inspecting branches for well camouflaged prey and displaying intermittently.
29 March 2003: Mount Kupe
Our main target for the day was to track down the elusive Little Oliveback. We gradually ascended the mountain, first passing through secondary growth where we added widespread species such as Banded Prinia, Gabon Woodpecker, Naked-faced Barbet and Yellow-billed Turaco to our list. Near the forest border we were treated to superb views of a singing Crossley's Ground Thrush, its bright orange chest glowing in the leafy upper-storey. Shortly to follow were the Grey Apalis, Yellow-footed Flycatcher, the epitome of cuteness, and a shimmering Yellow-bellied Wattle-eye. Finally, with some patience and considerable concentration, everyone managed to obtain prolonged views of the attractive Little Oliveback.
30 March 2003: Mount Kupe to Bamenda

It was time to move on, but not before a spot of relaxed birding on the lower slopes of Mt Kupe. Forest Swallow, with its characteristically fluttery flight, was conspicuous overhead. The monotonous pop-poping of Tinkerbirds penetrated the morning air, including the usual Yellow-rumped and Yellow-throated and our first Red-rumped, which we scoped on its singing perch. Bates's Paradise Flycatcher was another first and the unusual Red-headed Antpecker provided a fit conclusion to our birding stint at Mount Kupe. We headed north - an arduous journey - to the infamous Bamenda Mountains, home of the much-revered Bannerman's Turaco.

31 March-1 April 2003: The Bamenda Highlands

The Bamenda Highlands, which form the most significant uplands, area-wise, of the Cameroon Mountains EBA, have been ravaged by a long history of human habitation. Virtually all forest has been hacked down for full wood and has been transformed to farmland or Eucalypt plantation. For most part the endangered endemics cling to the last gullies of semi-forested habitat, although the remote Mount Oku community forest project, the long-term conservation hope of the area, protects a sizeable area of primary forest. During our two-day stay we visit a number of sites in order to track down as many of the remaining endemics as possible.

Birding got off to a buzzing start as, at our first stop, we heard a Bannerman's Turaco call nearby from the semi-forested gully. A short spell of playback bought a pair into the open, perched near the crown of a tall Eucalyptus. There they remained for ten or more minutes, calling sporadically and allowing scope views and re-views for all. Searches for calling Yellow-breasted Boubou and Bangwa Forest Warbler, two further endemics, were put on hold as everyone engrossed themselves.
Finally the pair flew further down the valley and we turned our attention, successfully, to the Boubou and Warbler. Shortly to follow was Banded Wattle-eye, yet another highly localised endemic, and Mountain Robin Chat, together with our first Northern Double-collared Sunbird and Black-collared Apalis. Before moving on we completed our one-stop endemics sweep... a couple of Bannerman's Weaver were spotted in the adjacent rank vegetation.
Moving to higher altitude localities, with grassland, we added Cameroon Pipit to our Endemics list. Flocks of swifts, including Mottled Swift, whirled overhead and Pectoral-patch Cisticola continually performed its display. Flowering trees at the forest border attracted Orange-tufted Sunbird and in proper forest we finally located a lone Cameroon Olive Pigeon, as well as another pair of Bannerman's Turaco, this time in more suitable surrounds. Oriole Finch was another popular find.

Our last stint of Bamenda birding was for the only bird bearing its name, Bamenda Apalis. Although we'd seen it previously at Ngaoundaba, it was a very welcome sight to Pearl, who was determined to complete her Cameroon Endemics list.

2 April 2003: Bamenda to Nyasoso

It was time to head back south again, but not before a touch of early morning birding from our hotel balcony. A pair of striking White-crowned Cliff Chat was active in the hotel grounds, whereas several pairs of Neumann's Starling flew back and forth, some perching on rocks to sun themselves. Most of the day was spend driving back to Nyasoso. A brief stint of roadside birding near Nyasoso produced the only Square-tailed Saw-wing of the trip. After dark we tracked down an exquisite male Buff-spotted Flufftail balancing awkwardly in a dense tangle of vines.

3 April 2003: Mount Kupe to Buea This morning was mop-up time on the lower slopes of Mount Kupe. At the first forest patch we heard our main target, Grey-headed Broadbill, buzzing away in display. Our playback attempts from the forest edge were clearly having no affect, so we left the trail and fought our way through the densely-tangled under-storey. It was not far off now and one quick whirl of the tape brought the male right in, perching directly above our heads. Over the next ten minutes we watch, agape, as he performed his unusual twirling display.
Pleased with our early success, we headed for the nearby farmbush. Narrow-tailed Starling and Bristle-nosed Barbet perched conspicuously at their nesting colonies in a colossal, dead tree stump. A small flock of Bates' Swift passed overhead. Next was the gorgeous Many-coloured Bush-shrike, followed by Black-shouldered Puffback, Bioko (or West African) Batis, Black-capped, Masked and Buff-throated Apalis, Honeyguide Greenbul, Petit's Cuckooshrike, Yellow-crested Woodpecker, Thick-billed Honeyguide and, the long-awaited star of the morning, African Piculet, which sat still for long enough for everyone to see through the scope! After this giddy rush of lifers it was time to head to Buea, from where we would access Mount Cameroon.

4 April 2003: Mount Camer

Today we ascended West Africa's highest mountain, Mount Cameroon... at least part of the way. Our main objective was to reach the altitudinal belt in which the unusual Mount Cameroon Speirops occurs, a species confined to the mountain. Moving up through the forest zone we paused briefly to admire Little Oliveback, Oriole Finch and Mountain Robin Chat.
At the tree-line Mountain Saw-wing, virtually endemic to the mountain, was common and conspicuous, but still no Speirops. Although tiring, we stuck to the task at hand, eventually succeeding in finding a small family party of Mount Cameroon Speirops.
After a good rest, and with much relief that we had found the last Cameroon Mountains Endemic, we headed back down. Where we met up with our vehicle we managed to lure a striking male Red-chested Flufftail out into the open! The evening was spent relaxing and waiting for Frank's arrival.
Into the Lowlands for Picathartes
5 April 2003: Buea to Mundemba Today we travelled to the frontier town of Mundemba, from where we would access the rich tropical lowland forests of Korup National Park. By the time we reached Ekondo Titi, beyond which a fair amount of secondary forest still exists and provides good birding, it was getting rather warm. Raptors were active under the clear skies and we were treated to a pair of displaying Cassin's Hawk Eagle, and Africa's king of eagles, Crowned Eagle.
Other stops produced more grotesque Naked-faced Barbet, our first Spotted Greenbul, a pair of very obliging Yellow-browed Camaroptera, and a stunning male Black-bellied Seedcracker feeding in rank roadside vegetation. On arrival in Mundemba we checked in at Hotel Iyaz and, after freshening up, birded the surrounding secondary growth for the last hour or two of light. Frank almost suffered from birder overload, with flocks of White-throated Bee-eater whirling overhead, scores of Grey Parrot bulleting by, Piping and African Pied Hornbill lazily drifting past, and active flocks of colourful seedeaters, which included Orange-cheeked and Black-headed Waxbill. On the lawn a pair of Long-legged Pipit tended to their three recently fledged young. Not bad for a travel day!
6-9 April 2003: Korup National Park

The pristine lowland forests of Korup National Park, bordering Nigeria's Cross River National Park, are among the richest in West Africa. Most importantly though, Korup is the most accessible site for the remarkable and much-desired Red-headed Picathartes, a species which is certainly one of the oddest birds in the world. Our primary goal here was to find this bizarre species. So when we entered Korup National Park over the impressive Mana River suspension bridge, we only paused briefly to admire a pair of Rock Pratincole. We wanted to reach camp by early afternoon so we could settle in before heading off for our first shot at Picathartes. We kept up a steady pace, only stopping for active mixed species flocks, which yielded our first Forest Robin, Fire-crested Alethe and Shining Drongo, and certain select birds such as a noisy party of White-crested Hornbill.
Later, with bated breath, we found ourselves tiptoeing through the peculiar boulder-world of the Picathartes. After almost two hours our patience and dedication were rewarded with terrific views of a pair of Red-headed Rockfowl bounding over boulders no more than 15m away, fluffing out their feathers to dry after the rainstorm. We drifted back to camp, quietly savouring sweet success. Our early triumph meant that we had freed up much time to look for other birds, although we couldn't resist another shot at Picathartes the following evening, again with great success.
Although birds were vocal in the forest, very few were tape-responsive. We focussed our attention on mixed-species flocks, carefully sifting our way through the mass of greenbuls. Eastern Bearded Greenbul was the first to go, followed shortly by the almost-identical pair of Icterine and Xavier's. Red-tailed and White-bearded Greenbul required more time, and Ansorge's remained elusive until the last morning. Probably the two most stubborn, however, were the two Bristlebills.
These, by voice, were two of the most common species in the forest, but their skulking habits meant that both Red-tailed and Lesser Bristlebill remained unseen for most of the group until our walk out of the forest. Other birds that frequented the roving foraging flocks included Buff-spotted Woodpecker, Rufous Flycatcher Thrush, Chestnut Wattle-eye, Pale-breasted and Blackcap Illadopsis, and Blue-billed and Crested Malimbe. We also found singles of Dusky Crested and Chestnut-capped Flycatcher, Yellow-bellied Wattle-eye and yet another taxonomic enigma, Red-headed Antpecker. Around camp we added the diminutive Lemon-bellied Crombec and a group of fluttery Sabine's Spinetail to our list.
Some of the best birds required specific targeting. Blue-headed Wood Dove, after a few tries, was enticed into view for everyone, although only some of the group managed to see Bare-cheeked Trogon and Chocolate-backed Kingfisher remained just a eerie call. Following the whooshing wings of the colossal Yellow-casqued Hornbill allowed everyone to obtain good views in the end, whereas Red-billed Dwarf Hornbill moved more silently through the mid-storey, although was more obliging. One of the most popular delights was a displaying male Rufous-sided Broadbill, which gave Ron some excellent photo opportunities.
10 April 2003: Mundemba to Douala

Having hiked out of Korup the previous day, we had another travel day ahead of us, this time back to Douala. We did, however, have time for a number of stops, the first of which was for a noisy flock of Great Blue Turaco, a bird Frank had quietly been hoping for. A riverside stop produced Cassin's Flycatcher, and Chestnut-breasted Negrofinch feeding in a large flowering tree. The last stop was most rewarding, producing spectacular views of Bates' Swift and Cassin's Spinetail, and a flock of Red-vented Malimbe. Not a bad way to end a trip!


About Birding Africa

Birding Africa is a specialist birding tour company customising tours for both world listers and more relaxed holiday birders, and combining interests in mammals, butterflies, dragonflies, plants and other natural history. Our guides know the continents birds like few others; we've written two acclaimed guide books on where to find Southern Africa's and Madagascar's best birds and will guide you to Africa's and Madagascar's most diverse birding destinations. Birding is more than our passion, it's our lifestyle and we are dedicated to making professional best value trips filled with endemic species and unique wildlife experiences. Since 1997, we've run bird watching tours in South Africa and further into Africa for individual birders, small birding groups and top international tour companies. We've run Conservation Tours in association with the African Bird Club and work with and consult for a number of other top international tour companies and the BBC Natural History Unit

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